biography  press  pictures
LIVE AT WOOD HALL REVIEWS

 

Allison Crowe On The Cover

November 25th, 2008 at 6:01 am · DrHGuy · Music

 

"Allison Crowe is the best thing to happen to 'Me And Bobby McGee' since Janis Joplin changed Kristofferson’s lyrics."

 

Me and Bobby McGee,” the song authored by Kris Kristofferson and popularized by Janis Joplin (although Roger Miller’s version was the first to rank as a hit), is not one of my favorites, but it is useful as an example of Allison Crowe’s skills, in part because most readers of this blog have, I suspect, heard it sung by at least a couple of performers.
Also noteworthy, however, is the choice of this song itself. If Allison had asked me to select 100 possible covers for her to play in a concert, a real concert with a fancy piano set in the converted church chapel of the Conservatory of Music in Victoria, British Columbia, a concert that would become the album, Allison Crowe Live At Wood Hall (with album art, shown on the right, radiating dangerous levels of wholesomeness), “Me and Bobby McGee” would not have been on my list. Nor would it have been on my “Possible Allison Crowe Covers #101-200″ list, nor the “#201 to 300″ list.7 “Me and Bobby McGee” is a Kristofferson-Joplin-Miller kind of song. Kenny Rogers, when he was still the “Kenny Rogers” in “Kenny Rogers & The First Edition,” sang it, as did Gordon Lightfoot, Bill Haley & His Comets, Sam The Sham, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. Waylon sang it. So did The Grateful Dead and Dolly Parton. It is definitely not an Allison Crowe kind of song.

 

Until she sings it.

 

Although Allison introduces over a dozen significant adaptations to “Me and Bobby McGee,” I’ll point out only one nuance. Listen to her inflected pronunciation of “Baton Rouge” in the first line, “Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin’ for a train.” It makes this version of the song her own from that point, giving the song a richer, more complex flavor than those rendered in flat Midwestern intonations.8 Yet, performed the same way by almost anyone else, the same tactic would come off as too precious by half.


Me and Bobby McGee - Allison Crowe

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Allison Crowe: Live at Wood Hall

I'm behind on my current release reviews, but I must take a break to write about an older album that I love. Though there's really no way to convey through mere words how much the music on Allison Crowe's Live At Wood Hall moves me, or how I want other people to listen to and adore it as much as I do. Allison sings with such an intensity of emotion, it's easy to see why she's often quoted as saying "Why music? Why breathing?". She seems to feel her music more than anyone simply listening to it possibly could, and that kind of artistic passion seems extremely rare these days. Her voice produces the kind of chills that I only associate with a select number of singers.



Even the packaging of Live At Wood Hall is lovely. The interior flaps of the album cover and each of the two discs are painted with a stained glass window design, pulling apart and fitting together as a perfect picture. The album was recorded live during a two night performance in 2005 at Wood Hall, located at the Victoria Conservatory Of Music in Canada. In between songs, you can hear snippets of Allison's banter with the audience and the enthusiastic response of the crowd.

Like many of Allison's songs, "There Is" starts off the first disc of the album in a such a heartfelt and sincere tone that it can only call to mind classic Joni Mitchell. There are many moments on the two discs where Allison's voice seems to defy gravity, and the opening track is no exception.

"By Your Side" was one of the first original Allison Crowe songs that I ever heard. After her cover of "Hallelujah", this is probably the song that really captured my attention. On the surface it seems like a simple piano tune, but toward the end her voice soars up into an unfathomable note and holds it without faltering at all.

The cover of Ani Difranco's "Independence Day" begins slowly in a hushed and pretty tone, gradually growing into passionate anger and pounding piano. The upbeat music of "Sea Of A Million Faces" betrays the melancholy, longing, and desperation of its lyrics. The lyrics of "Bill" are quite funny, but the power of the vocals diverts attention from the comedy.

"Fire", "What About You", and "Whether I'm Wrong" are a few of many songs that showcase the unique and vast range of Allison's voice. Her pitch is particularly noteworthy on "Whether I'm Wrong", falling to its lowest depths and rising faultlessly to its purest heights.

"In Love In Vain" is soft and jazzy, with a purring lilt to the vocals. The cover of Counting Crows' "A Murder Of One" is fervent and dignified. The first disc is rounded out with Allison's beautiful and echoing acapella performance of the traditional "Believe Me If All".

The soft and soulful "Crayon And Ink" opens the second disc. It's another favourite of her original songs. "How Long" shows off the throatier side of Allison's vocals. "Running" is yet another strong vocal performance, with lyrics that foreshadow "Effortless" on This Little Bird. Allison names Tori Amos as one of her favourite artists and influences, and has covered several of her songs. Here she does a stripped down version of "Playboy Mommy", from Tori's From The Choirgirl Hotel album.

The lovely piano intro of "Disease" melts into a tune that is much darker in tone than most of her work. The song features some of Allison's best and most intense piano playing. Next is a live performance of the title track from the Secrets studio album. It's one of many songs that are featured on both albums. Secrets is another great album, though I must admit I prefer these live versions.

The album ends with a trio of covers. "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables followed by a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine", and Janis Joplin's "Me And Bobby McGee" for the finale. All three songs have been covered many times by both great and mediocre artists. Here Allison Crowe once again proves that there is no song too great for her powerful voice to conquer. Her vocals on "I Dreamed A Dream" are especially potent and moving. As with her cover of "Hallelujah", she seems to put every fiber of her being into the song and it's an awe inspiring thing to hear.

Allison Crowe - By Your Side (mp3)
Allison Crowe - Disease (mp3)
Allison Crowe - I Dreamed a Dream (mp3)

You can download more mp3s from the album here, and a ridiculously, wonderfully large amount of mp3s from all of Allison's releases here. But you're missing out if you don't buy this CD. It's the kind of album that is best heard as a whole, and one that you can really get lost in it if you give it full attention. And Allison is extremely supportive of music blogs and file sharing, so please support her by purchasing her albums.

Allison Crowe's Official Site

Buy the album

Live at Wood Hall: CD Review
Sophia Gurley, The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music (USA)
August 2006

 

This is a two-disc recording of Allison Crowe performing solo over two nights. The recording quality is good, especially for a live concert. She mostly sings her own songs, but does a few covers, including: Ani DiFranco's "Independence Day"; "Bill" from the musical, Showboat; "In Love in Vain" from Centennial Summer (another Jerome Kern song); "Counting Crows' "A Murder of One"; and on the first night ends with the traditional Irish tune "Believe Me If All". The next night she covers: Tori Amos' "Playboy Mommy"; "I Dreamed A Dream" (from Les Mis); John Lennon's "Imagine"; and Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" (which has as much passion and power as Janis Joplin's version). The focus is always on her vocals, which drive songs into consistently powerful, passionate regions, even when she's singing quietly. Her own songwriting stands up well against the covers. She certainly has every bit of ability, talent, and passion she needs to have a long career

Live with Allison
Bruce von Stiers, BVS Reviews: Rock/Jazz (USA)
December 2005

 

There is no easy way to describe the magnitude of the talent of Allison Crowe. This pianist / vocalist has gathered a bunch of awards and a ton of fans since her career began. Her music has been compared to Sarah McLachlan, Jewel and several other top female artists. But to put her in a box like that isn't quite fair. Allison has her own unique style.

This young Canadian, she is in early 20's, has been playing to audiences since her early teens. From coffeehouses to large concert hall and even television specials, Allison has honed her talents so once you hear her, you will become an instant fan.

Allison recorded a live album that has a lot of people talking about it. This album was recorded at Wood Hall, the converted chapel at the Conservatory of Music in Victoria , British Columbia. The title of the album is Live at Wood Hall.

This is actually a double live album with two discs. You get about two hours of beautiful vocals and tremendous piano music. Allison wrote several of the songs that she performs.

Interspersed with the songs are bits with Allison talking to the audience. She is witty and creates an instant connection with the audience.

The first disc starts out with a song that Allison wrote called There Is. It s a beautiful song that has strong vocals and wonderful piano.

The next song is By Your Side. It is another song that Allison wrote. The intro sounds somewhat like Journey's Faithfully. Now there is vast difference between the ‘80's rock ballad and Allison's song, but the piano music is similar in spots.

Bill is from the musical Showboat. Allison leads into the song by talking about seeing a Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera. She mentions something about an explosion on stage and pondered whether there was a new phantom each performance. The song allows Allison's penchant for show tunes to shine through.

Allison does a pretty good job of covering Ani DiFranco's Independence Day. She also has some fun with Jerome Kern's jazzy tune, In Love In Vain.

The traditional air, Believe Me If All, is beautifully done as the last song on the first disc.

The second disc holds some originals songs along with some delightfully unexpected covers.

The first song on the second disc is Crayon and Ink. It is a slow ballad with heart rending vocals and haunting piano. Another strong piece is Pray For Rain.

You are sure to like Allison's cover of the Tori Amos song, Playboy Mommy. Her inflections are the same at Tori's but the voice is distinctly different. This makes it as much Allison's song as Tori's.

Allison tackles another Broadway tune with I Dreamed A Dream.

The last two songs on the second disc are both covers. There is John Lennon's Imagine. The other song is Me and Bobby McGee. I haven't heard very many covers of Imagine. Allison does a good job of capturing the essence of the Lennon's music. As for Me and Bobby McGee, I have heard a lot of people do this song. But I haven't heard anything like Allison's version before. Allison puts a whole different spin on the song by changing the inflection on several keys word in the verses. This indeed makes a different type of cover and lets Allison assume ownership of the song.

If you get the chance to listen to Allison Crowe, you will see what people all over Canada, parts of the U.S. and fans around the world are talking about. Allison is a world class pianist and vocalist. You will have to go a long ways to find someone who is so young and yet so talented.

torrid quarry
Trevor Raggatt, Wears The Trousers (UK)
October 18, 2005
       Allison Crowe
       Live At Wood Hall
       Rubenesque Records

Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe's personal mantra adorns the cover of her latest album. That simple maxim is "Why music?" "Why breathing?", so personal is her connection with the music she writes and performs. This new record, her fourth in total, documents a two-night stand at the Robin & Winifred Wood Recital Hall in Victoria, British Columbia in March 2005, taking in twenty-three songs performed live in front of a small but fortunate audience. Crowe was born and raised on Vancouver Island in Nanaimo, a town with two prior claims to musical fame - firstly, for having a deep heritage in brass band music stemming from its coal mining history, and secondly, for being the birthplace of jazz chanteuse, Diana Krall. Fortunately, Allison Crowe has forsaken the former influence and, despite being a talented piano player and singer and sharing stages with Krall, has taken a different musical route and mines very separate sonic seams. Her piano playing often perfectly complements the mood of each song, whether she is tracing delicate arpeggios and melodies or delivering bombastic chordal backing.

This double-disc set amply demonstrates Crowe's profound skill both as a writer and as an interpreter of other peoples' songs, the performances dripping with emotion as she wrings meaning out of both the words and music. Her own compositions range from simple, tender love songs (There Is, By Your Side) to insightful social commentary (Whether I'm Wrong, Disease), and all are delivered in a contemporary style. However, it is perhaps her cover versions that are most revealing of Allison Crowe, and a diverse selection they are too, ranging from her personal favourites and influences (Tori Amos' Playboy Mommy, DiFranco's classic Independence Day and A Murder Of One by Counting Crows) to showtunes Bill and I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables, via the oft-covered Imagine and Me & Bobby McGee. It's the Counting Crows cover that really highlights her skills as an interpreter. Crowe strips the song back to its skeleton and delivers a performance that completely convinces. In her version, the refrain "All your life is such a shame, shame, shame/All your love is just a dream, dream, dream/Open up your eyes" is utterly divorced from the original's lightly hopeful interpretation, becoming instead a cry of pure despair from a heart that can see clearly the life which she is missing. It's a heart-rending tour de force.

 

Live At Wood Hall easily holds the listener's attention throughout its near 110-minute duration, but whilst it has certain claims on the status of masterpiece, it is perhaps a flawed one. Although Crowe's vocal ability and accuracy are beyond reproach (her use of portamento to attain certain notes is exquisite and has a hugely powerful effect that she wisely resists overusing), there are moments where she fails to reach the odd high note. However, this is completely forgivable in the live context of the album. Larry Anschell's production and engineering serve to give a transparent and intimate document of the concerts - this is no ProTool'd and AutoTuned plastic pop opus but a real musician creating a real performance. Where Crowe's tuning is a little errant, it is not because of a lack of ability, but rather because raw emotion seems to overwhelm the technical aspects of the delivery. Another nice technical touch is that all of the applause and intros are recorded as separate tracks, thereby allowing the listener to edit them out with some nifty programming if they so wish.

The greatest difficulty with Crowe's singing is perhaps most obvious on the Jerome Kern/PG Wodehouse showtune, Bill. While hers is a magnificent interpretation, bringing the song slap bang into the 21st Century, it also over-emphasises her extraordinary vibrato, a technique that is usually used subtly to bring additional depth to a performance. However, when Crowe switches that internal button, it is anything but subtle. Very rapid, deep and with a "square-wave" quality, she turns it on and off like a tremolo effect pedal rather than fading it into sustained passages. On initial listens, this can be rather distracting - too often I was listening to the vibrato rather than the music - but subsequent auditions lessen the shock of the new. A flaw, true, but not a fatal one!

Overall, Live At Wood Hall is a worthy document of a pair of extraordinary performances. More than that though, it's an album that suggests that this young woman from an obscure mining town in Canada is only at the beginning of a long and successful career.

Luna Kafé record review (Europe)

Canada - Full Moon 109 - 08/19/05
Allison Crowe
Live at Wood Hall
Rubenesque Records

Allison Crowe's debut Secrets was an excellent record and, this double
live cd sees the singer alone at the piano. The material is a mix of
originals and covers. Opener "This Is" sees her display considerable
vocal firepower to a neat backing. Ani DiFranco's "Independence Day"
gets a lovely reading. "Sea of a Million Faces" from the debut gets a
jaunty musical reading. Crowe's singing of loneliness suits the backing
oddly enough.

Two songs by Jerome Kern, "Bill" and "In Love in Vain" get inspired
versions before disc 1 is over. What both discs prove is the sheer power
of Crowe's singing. She can belt with the best of them, but she also
knows when to hold back. Disc 2's version of "Imagine" could easily have
been over-sung but she lets the words resonate instead. Her take on Tori
Amos' "Playboy Mommy" is another gem. "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les
Miserables is heart-rending.

This record is as great as live discs can get and I think Crowe would be
great to see for real.



Copyright © 2005 Anna Maria Stjärnell

Album Review
Jennifer Patton, Delusions of Adequacy (USA)
August 16 2005

 

This time around, the ever prolific Allison Crowe treats fans to a double-disc live album recorded in March 2005 at Victoria, British Columbia's Conservatory of Music. Live at Wood Hall is a voyage through Crowe's concert repertoire and offers up plenty of original tunes as well as a wide range of cover songs in a variety of styles. Armed only with her piano and stellar voice, Allison Crowe delivers a performance of superb quality that belies her young age.

The overall focus of Allison Crowe's music is her voice and lyrics - and what a voice it is! Crowe has a strong and chillingly beautiful but decidedly feminine set of pipes, and it seems she can sing just about anything. There are plenty of ballads, including the anthem-like "There Is" and "Pray for Rain," as well a jazz ("In Love in Vain") and Broadway ("Bill, I Dreamed a Dream"). Although much of Allison's writing focuses on passion, hope, and love, some of Allison's originals, like "Whether I 'm Wrong" and "Disease" are infused with social commentary.

The cover songs on Live at Wood Hall are all well chosen to highlight Crowe's voice, and yet she still manages to give each a bit of personal spin. Allison gives Ani DiFranco's "Independence Day" a sense of urgency not found in the original, while her version of the Counting Crows' "A Murder of One" becomes more haunting and sincere. Her take on Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee" gets a refreshing spin on the piano, while Tori Amos' "Playboy Mommy" sounds completely at home with Allison's style. Still, perhaps the most breathtaking moment is the a capella rendition of the Irish traditional "Believe Me if All" that perfectly caps off the first disc.

With two full discs of material, there's a lot to digest on Live at Wood Hall, but for a concert recording, the album couldn't be better. The mix of originals and cover songs is well balanced, and the recording quality is so magnificent you could hear a pin drop. Such clarity puts all the focus on Allison's voice and piano playing without audience or other noise distractions. For the breadth of material offered and for the unique opportunity to hear Allison Crowe play live (since she doesn't have any US dates coming up that I'm aware of), Live at Wood Hall is a great bet for anyone who loves simply beautiful vocals and piano-based music.

 

CD Review
Amy Lotsberg,
Collected Sounds (USA)
August 9 2005

 

If you've been a reader for this site for a while, you know that I've
reviewed Allison's music many times. She is on the first artists ever
showcased here and as it turns out, in some instances I've been the
first reviewer to review a certain CD or song. So she's definitely a
Collected Sounds favorite. I'm not really sure that I can say anything
new that I haven't already said about Allison. She's amazing.

This recording gives us a chance to see what Allison is like in front of
an audience, how she interacts with them, and how she still does not miss
a note. That voice is just as crystal clear and spot on as it is on any
studio recording.

One of my favorites moments is her cover of Ani DiFranco's "Independence
Day
". She actually does quite a few covers here. Many songs by Jerome
Kern, a Counting Crows tune, John Lennon's "Imagine" and something for
you bluesy rock folks: a cover of Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee"
and her voice is perfect for it. Funny, I can't stand Joplin (I know,
you want to take away my Female Musician Evangelist card), but I like it
when Allison is doing it, even though she sounds very much like Joplin.
Go figure!

But most of the other songs are written by Allison and they're just as
good, if not better than the covers. My favorites are: There Is, Sea of
a Million Faces
, Whether I'm Wrong, Crayon & Ink (which was also on a
previous release)

This is a great way to get acquainted with the lovely Allison Crowe if
you are not already. If you are, well, then you will have to have this
to round out your collection.

 

Revieuw Live Album
Frank Van Engelen - Bluesiana -  Radio Purmerend (Netherlands)
July 12 2005

What a voice this lady has, sometimes she sounds like Kate Bush, some Melanie, and Eva Cassidy, but most of all herself, in thrilling originals, and some very well done covers. Accompanied with the piano she sets a haunting, relaxing, thrilling performance where you could hear a pin drop. I believe the stories she tells are all very interesting and original. The cover songs she does, are not the easiest ones I have heard, and she gives it a special personal blend. Imagine, she gives a very beautiful touch, the Counting Crows song is brilliant, and the Janis Joplin Me and Bobby McGee is surprisingly with at the end a screaming bluesey voice. I think this treasure could easily do some blues songs too, maybe someday, she coud sing in my show some bluesey stuff. I was very delighted by her music, and if you are into original compositions, with a great voice, that only can be this woman's treasure, this album will bring you happiness and joy everywhere you go. A must have for people who like Norah Jones, Kate Bush, Melanie and Eva (sometimes). 

Thanx so much my lady.

 

Ultrasound: Rock
Tom Harrison, The Province (Canada)
Tuesday, July 12, 2005


ALLISON CROWE: Live at Wood Hall (Rubenesque)

A double CD of a singer at her piano is a lot to listen to without the immediacy of actually being at the concert. So, allowing for that absence of drama, we are left with a generous helping of original songs and a few interpretations that show Crowe's range - from showtunes to Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco. Crowe is still developing as a writer - she hasn't found her signature yet - but her singing is bold and elastic and ultimately affecting. As for the influence of Amos and DiFranco, you can hear through her music how Crowe relates to these women.

 

CD Review
Stoked Fish's CD and Movie Tips (Switzerland)
July 2005

     Artist: Allison Crowe
     Album: Live At Wood Hall
     Year: 2005
     Label: Rubenesque Records LTD


     Review: This is a double cd of Allisons Live at Wood Hall Victoria Conservatory Of Music (Victoria B.B. Canada) show on the nights of March 24 and 25 2005. It features 14 of Allison's originals, I especially like the song Disease with its beautiful dreamy piano line at the very beginning, but also By Your Side, Pray For Rain, Immersed and Whether I'm Wrong. Well, it's all good. Alley covers some songs too, for instance Tori Amos' Playboy Mommy, Ani DiFranco's Independence Day and John Lennon's Imagine. She has an excellent voice and is one of the most promising and overlooked artists out there. She also did a great cover of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, not featured on this cd. Allison
definitely deserves some more attention. Check her out and enjoy!


     Highlights: Disease, By Your Side, Pray For Rain, Immersed


     Comparison: Reviewers say Alley is similar to Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, but well, I don't know...best just buy the cd, you won't regret it, seriously

Copyright (c) 2005, stokedfish

   

Amazon.com (buyer) reviews:  

 

Woah!, August 21, 2005
     Reviewer:    Allan Eòghan "Gaelbàrd"  - ***** (five stars)  


I'm not sure what I was expecting since I'd just heard Allison's name.
And in the Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Pop area? I didn't think that it would
fly, since I'm not so much a fan of the first three genres. But what a
voice! Sea of a Million Faces, Secrets, and a Murder of One really
caught my attention, musically and with Allison's soulful, powerful
soprano/mezzo-soprano. How she plays it; powerful and brassy one moment,
soft and mellow the next. She really has a lot of soul in her voice! And
the lyrics have much meaning to them, and she's actually written some of
these songs? That amazes me! And I like the way that she interacts with
the audience in between songs; she sounds very humble (but that's just
my perception), which I like.

She looks to have more talent than certain "singers" (Britney Spears to
name one).

I can't wait to see which direction that Allison takes!

Playboy Mommy: Absolutely Wonderful, August 1, 2005
     Reviewer:    R. Meyer  - ***** (five stars)



I am a huge Tori Amos fan, so I was interested in hearing this version
of it. I am so impressed. Allison Crowe's voice is utterly beautiful but
she does not sing just so that her voice sounds beautiful. She lets
power and pain drip from it, as is evident in her rendition of
"Hallelujah" and even her Christmas carols.

haunting and beautiful, July 6, 2005
     Reviewer:    Sarah Mulchand (New York, NY) - ***** (five stars)

Allison Crowe has the voice, the soul, and the ability to express herself in a manner that gives one chills. This live album of Ms. Crowe's perfomance Victoria BC's Conservatory of Music, both a combination of her original songs and a ecelectic mix of covers only left me eager for more. The album is described as "a range from roots & blues through folk, pop/rock, jazz and Broadway" which is entirely accurate. There are songs on this album that cover every mood, every musical interest. While I love the entire collection, I would have to say that my favorites are "Sea of a Million Faces", "Secrets", "I Dreamed a Dream" (from Les Miz..amazing!), "Whether I'm Wrong", "Imagine" and the classic "Me and Bobby McGee".

 

If you could only buy two new albums of this year, it would be this and Ben Lee's "Awake is the New Sleep".